We all know of areas in our towns or villages where groups of teens like to mooch around don’t we? If they’re not into sports or youth organisations like the Scouts or similar what is there for them to do?
When I grew up there was a village youth club where we all hung out – we played pool, darts, bought snacks from the hatch or just sat and listened to music with our mates. But unless there are willing volunteers available to run these informal places where teens are allowed to be themselves, what else is there?
This age group can seem intimidating or troublesome to some – they get blamed for all the vandalism and theft, they’re labelled and frowned upon.
However, in Goresbridge, Co Kilkenny teens are trying their best to change this perception by doing something for themselves, all under the gentle guidance of Martina from Ossary Youth.
In this pretty rural village the lads known as The Bridge Boys have rejuvenated an area they hang out in. With the EcoUnesco award as a goal, and a summer BBQ as a celebration of their achievements, the boys have been busy.
I came across Jay, Evan, Aidan and David in February when I was asked to help them grow some vegetables for their party. They decided what they wanted to eat, they sowed the seeds and watched them develop. They were very energetic, keen to get stuck in and full of questions, slightly different from my usual gardening groups who generally prefer a slower pace and lots of tea! If you’re wondering what teenage lads chose to sow, what else but cosmic purple carrots! They also picked lettuce, basil, courgettes, peas, tomatoes, beetroot and lettuce from the seed tin.
Outside in the community garden they cleaned up an old bed, sowed wildlife friendly plants – sunflowers, cosmos, night scented stocks, calendula and aubrietta. The rest of the plants were put out by the river, the location of their summer shindig. We even snuck in a couple of courgette & tomato plants… wonder if anyone will notice.
What really blew me away with this project wasn’t the vegetable and flower planting that I’d been involved with, though I was impressed by their enthusiasm and hard work, it was seeing the boys handiwork building a “youth bench”. They’ve been cleaning and tidying all the benches by the river but creating the games bench apparently took four days of measuring, cutting, sanding, drawing and painting. When they’d finished they then went on to make three bird tables.
The outdoor games table has spinners that act as the dice and squares in the snakes and ladders large enough for their mobile phones which become the counters – isn’t it great?! This is ‘their’ bench. Now when the local youths hang out down by the river with their friends they have something to do. They also have a sense of pride and achievement and will be protective of their area.
Apart from feeling a sense of delight at seeing this project come to fruition, two other things made me smile ….the first was the expression on one of the mothers faces when she saw what her son had achieved (jaw dropping was a understatment). The second was the story I heard of an old lady who was spotted stealing all the flowers from one of the beds and squirreling them into her bag to take home. It wasn’t the teenagers messing up the village, but someone who really should have known better….
What do you think? Are you as impressed by the lads bench as I am? I can see villages everywhere wanting one of these. If you’re involved with any community groups perhaps you could make the suggestion and see where it leads…